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Keeping up with every tech headline is hard enough for anybody, let alone busy professionals. To help, ReadWriteBiz rounds up the week's most important tech news and insights for small- and medium-sized businesses.

Facebook has begun to roll out some of the features available with Facebook Places for owners of Pages, according to a post on Inside Facebook. Some business Pages that have a physical address listed are being given the ability to offer deals to customers and let them check-in to the location, just as business owners can with Facbeook Places set up.

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The Influences Driving VirtualizationThe Influences Driving VirtualizationApproximately 22% of companies have already completed their virtualization projects, with another 47% starting or partially completing their adoptions. Learn the challenges these early adopters faced and significantly decrease your implementation risk in our free report, The Influences Driving Virtualization: Standardization, Simplification and Automation.

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Speaking of using the iPad for business purposes, ReadWriteWeb's own Klint Finley rounded up a couple new tools in his weekly iPad For Business Round-up. This week, he looked at two office suite apps, a patient registration app for doctors a new report on enterprise adoption of tablets and more.

In its ongoing war against content piracy, the American music recording industry is now reportedlytaking aim at online file storage services like Box, which is a bit like Dropbox but geared more toward business customers.

Despite past snafus on the user privacy front, Google wants to offer expanded privacy to users of its search engines, shielding their search activity from the eyes of employers and ISPs with the SSL-encrypted version of its search engine. This feature has been around for about a year now, but Google recently began a renewed push to make folks aware of it, using this particular angle as a way of doing so.

The mobile payments space continues to heat up with mobile credit card reader Square reportedly now processing $3 million, according to Techcrunch. The mobile payments startup, which was recently invested in by Visa, is one of a few companies offering plastic credit card readers that let businesses take payments from mobile devices without incurring hefty transaction fees or dealing with merchant accounts. For small businesses, the appeal of these products is obvious. Previously, cost-prohibitive point-of-sale systems were simply not an option for many small businesses, who now have viable options to choose from like Square, Veifone's PAYware MobileiZettle and Intuit'sGoPayment.

Call it the viral IPO;

Michael Nagle/ BLOOMBERG -  Reid Hoffman, chairman and co-founder of LinkedIn Corp., third from left, and Jeffrey Weiner, chief executive officer of LinkedIn, center, applaud during the opening bell ceremony at the New York Stock Exchange.Michael Nagle/ BLOOMBERG - Reid Hoffman, chairman and co-founder of LinkedIn Corp., third from left, and Jeffrey Weiner, chief executive officer of LinkedIn, center, applaud during the opening bell ceremony at the New York Stock Exchange.

The social-networking company Linked In debuted on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday to a thunderous welcome that harkened back to the frenetic days of the dot-com bubble. Its stock price skyrocketed nearly 100 percent just minutes after trading began — a level virtually unseen in the past decade — and turned its executives into billionaires.

The company’s meteoric rise is seeding fears of a second Internet bubble. But this one, analysts say, is not driven by Wall Street alone.

LinkedIn made Twitter’s list of trending topics Thursday and was the second-most-searched term on Google, falling behind only “end of the world may 21st.” It was mentioned in 1,142 Facebook posts, 2,569 blogs and more than 34,000 tweets, according to the analytics firm Webtrends, as LinkedIn rode the same wave of social media that it helped create.

“The social network priced this deal,” said Kathleen Shelton Smith, principal at Renaissance Capital, an IPO investment advisory company that had record traffic to its Web site Thursday. “Sometimes these feed on themselves.”

The reception seemed to catch even LinkedIn executives off guard. The company — which has said it does not expect to make a profit this year after earning $15 million in 2010 — announced its plans to go public in January. It announced the initial share price this month at $32 to $35 and then upped the offer to $45 this week. On the private stock exchange SharesPost, investors had valued LinkedIn at $2.5 billion.

Wall Street blew past those expectations Thursday, starting the stock at $83 and bidding as high as $122.70. It closed at $94.25 — up 110 percent for the day — with a value of nearly $9 billion. That prompted some analysts to question whether LinkedIn should have asked for more.

“We are very comfortable with where we priced,” LinkedIn chief executive Jeff Weiner said in an interview on Bloomberg TV. “I wouldn’t read too much into any one day of trading.”

But for many investors, Linked In’s debut is just the appetizer before a bigger fish: Facebook. The company is expected to go public next year, and secondary markets have valued it at more than $75 billion, though predictions have moderated in recent months to $55 billion.

Investors are also looking to LinkedIn for a sign that the IPO market — which dried up during the recession — is back in business. That could set the stage for other popular sites such as Group on to go public.

“People have this pent-up demand to invest in the space,” said Ray Valdes, an analyst at Gartner Research. “They’re getting some of that investor love, whether they deserve all of it or not.”

Some of that sentiment was playing out online as well. “Wow! LNKD is partying like it’s 1999,” tweeted one user, referring to the company’s ticker symbol.

LinkedIn reported total revenue of $243 million last year, earning about 7 cents per share. That means it traded for more than 1,300 times revenue on Thursday. The company said it plans to use the cash to purchase smaller companies, invest in its network and expand its international operations.

In addition, though LinkedIn is most widely known for its social network, the company gets half its revenue by helping businesses find and recruit employees. Thirty percent of sales comes from marketing, and only 20 percent of revenue stems from users. The model distinguishes itself from other social-networking sites that rely heavily on ads.

“It’s not like this is a,” said Lise Buyer, founding principal of IPO consulting company Class V Group. “Clearly it is a terrific, legitimate company they have.”

Whether investors’ enthusiasm reaches bubble status will depend on the circumference of LinkedIn’s halo effect. Buyer noted that investors were salivating for shares of Renren, the Chinese version of Facebook, when it went public two weeks ago. The stock climbed 29 percent on its first day, to $18.01. By Thursday, it had fallen nearly 24 percent, to $13.75.

“The first day is really interesting,” she said. But “what really matters is ever afterwards.”

By Ylan Q. Mui, Published: May 19


Internet giants getting antsy;

May 18 (Bloomberg) -- The iPad is wreaking havoc on the personal-computer market. Hewlett-Packard Co.’s consumer PC sales plunged 23 percent last quarter, and the company lopped $1 billion off its annual sales forecast. And while rival Dell Inc. beat analysts’ estimates because of corporate demand, its sales to consumers slumped 7.5 percent. More than 70 million tablets like the Apple Inc. iPad will be sold in 2011, a total that will balloon to 246 million in three years, Jefferies & Co. said yesterday.

“You’re walking into a buzz saw,” Jane Snorek, a senior research analyst at Nuveen Asset Management in Milwaukee, said of the iPad. Her firm manages more than $200 billion in assets. “The tablet is going to replace at least the home computer.”

At 7.3-inches across with a color screen and an array of popular downloadable games like “Angry Birds,” applications for watching movies and reading magazines, and software for word processing and spreadsheets, the iPad has siphoned off more PC sales than analysts and executives predicted.

Apple, based in Cupertino, California, and run by Steve Jobs, sold 4.69 million iPads last quarter, for a total of about 20 million since the April 2010 debut. Apple shares increased $1.15 to $337.29 at 9:48 a.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market composite trading.

The PC market, by contrast, declined last quarter. Global shipments fell 3.2 percent, hurt in part because some consumers bought tablets instead, research firm IDC reported last month.

While rivals including Research In Motion Ltd., Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. have begun selling tablets, the devices have yet to gain wide traction.

Microsoft, Intel Impact

The lack of viable competitors was felt across the PC industry in the first quarter. Microsoft Windows sales fell 4.4 percent to $4.45 billion. Its net income of $5.23 billion was eclipsed by the $5.99 billion reported by Apple, which topped its rival in that measure for the first time in 20 years.

At Intel, whose processors run more than 80 percent of the world’s personal computers, growth in the PC-chip division came mainly from emerging markets and corporate sales.

Hewlett-Packard, the top PC maker, yesterday cleaved 20 cents a share from its annual earnings forecast, to $5, excluding items. The revised outlook sent the shares tumbling 7.3 percent on the New York Stock Exchange yesterday and left the stock down 12 percent since the last business day before Nov. 1, when Leo Apotheker took over as chief executive officer.

“Leo comes in just as the tablet is taking off, and the consumer PC market is waning,” Snorek said.

‘Bifurcated Market’

In a conference call yesterday, Apotheker bemoaned a “bifurcated” PC market, where companies are spending and consumers aren’t. Sales in the company’s personal systems group fell 5.4 percent to $9.42 billion last quarter.

At Hewlett-Packard, full-year sales will be $129 billion to $130 billion. In February, HP had predicted full-year sales of $130 billion to $131.5 billion and earnings of at least $5.20 a share. Third-quarter forecasts from HP also missed analysts’ estimates.

Dell was able to top analysts’ estimates with its quarterly results yesterday because of demand from businesses. Its sales to consumers fell partly due to competition with the iPad and other tablets, said Brian Gladden, chief financial officer of the Round Rock, Texas-based company.

“It’s clearly a topic of discussion and it’s a factor that’s impacting the weak consumer demand,” he said in an interview.

The success of the iPad, along with the iPhone and new versions of the Mac, helped Apple supplant Microsoft as the world’s most valuable technology company last year.

Apple’s Gains

“In terms of the rise of tablets and Apple doing extremely well, that clearly impacts all the stakeholders in the space,” said Abhey Lamba, an analyst at International Strategy & Investment Group in New York.

Hewlett-Packard plans to deliver a tablet called the TouchPad this summer. The device will run the WebOS operating system, which the company acquired when it bought Palm Inc. last year. WebOS also runs on smartphones and will appear on Hewlett- Packard PCs next year.

Intel is redesigning its chips to use less power and work better with tablets, the company told analysts yesterday.

CEO Paul Otellini said the company will design future products to make its chips more appealing for use in smartphones and tablets. He’s trying to lessen his company’s dependence on the PC market and have it profit more directly from demand for tablets and phones, a market where Intel’s chips have lost out to rival designs.

Microsoft plans to release version of Windows optimized for touch-screen tablets next year.

Companies that aren’t selling tablets risk getting left behind, said Tony Ursillo, an analyst at Loomis Sayles & Co.

“Most of the growth is going to come on the tablet side,” he said.


--With assistance by Ian King in San Francisco. Editors: Tom Giles, Nick Turner


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